1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido
Last August, news of a fatal accident at Stone Brewing Co. made its way across the Internet, radio, and airwaves. Many reports listed the victim as merely a “worker,” “employee,” or “brewer.” Eventually, the media and the world came to know his name — Matt Courtright. In typical fashion, the reporters hashed out the story of his passing then moved along to the next story, forgetting that name without ever knowing anything about the man who owned it. But make no mistake. Matt Courtright will always be remembered by the many people he touched at Stone and beyond. He left an indelible memory worth honoring, and that is the purpose behind a beer of his devising that Stone released earlier this week — Matt's Burning Rosids Imperial Cherrywood-Smoked Saison.
This brew is what its name states — a Belgian-style farmhouse ale given extra flavor by the addition of cherrywood-smoked malt and enough ABV so that it may be cellared and enjoyed at a later date — but it’s so much more. One of a number of beer recipes Matt developed and brewed during his time with Stone, it’s one that was devised with his Stone colleague Brian Bishop for an intra-company brewing competition. Everyone who tasted the inaugural batch brewed on Stone’s pilot system was instantly impressed with the beer’s big flavor. So, when it came time to pay tribute to Matt, it was a no-brainer that this particular recipe be shared with the world, so that the public could see what everyone in Stone’s brewhouse recognized — that Matt was a passionate, inventive, and skilled brewer. But he was so much more than that. And since other outlets failed to scratch beyond the surface, I want to take a moment to do so as my small way of honoring his memory.
Matt came to Stone from Michigan, after discovering a passion for brewing so all-consuming it inspired him to turn his back on the career in architecture he was already deep into. He gained most of his experience in a brewpub environment before getting hired by Stone and relocating to San Diego County. When Stone opened its 10-barrel brewhouse at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, Matt was selected as the first brewer from the Escondido facility to mash-in during a rotational stint. While there, he created three beers — a rye IPA, cherry porter, and märzen. He accomplished a great deal during his two-plus years with the company, but nothing so significant as endearing himself to just about everybody he came in contact with. Matt was a positive force — always laughing, really interested in the people he worked with and eager to know them. He made fast friends and spent much of his time outside the brewery enjoying the company of those he worked with inside it. And when he passed, he left a hole that will simply never be filled, both here or abroad.
In addition to the good work he did at Stone, this upstanding young man also contributed his energies to a pair of charitable causes that moved him; charities that proceeds from sales of Matt’s Burning Rosids will be donated to in his name. The first was TKF, an organization dedicated to ending youth violence in high-risk urban environments through education and provision of fulfilling activities. The other was GoDesignInc.org, a non-profit working to fulfill the needs of developing countries throughout the world. Matt traveled all the way to Ethiopia to contribute his architectural know-how and elbow grease to building a much-needed school for an impoverished village. That was the type of person that he was — always thinking of others and working to brighten the lives of those he connected with. It’s part of why we were so lucky to know him in life, and why he will be so dearly missed.